A hero’s journey is never easy, and is usually fraught with danger and obstacles that take much effort to overcome. When it comes to video games, the onus is on the player to champion the cause and bring about a happy ending, and for United Label and Odd Bug Studio, nothing is as captivating as a dark role-playing game with a rat as the star of the show in Tails of Iron.
This RPG sets the stage for a brutal and sometimes, heart-breaking, adventure that introduces the conflict between rats and frogs, as players step into the shoes of Redgi, heir to the Rat Throne. On the joyous day when he was supposed to be crowned, the vicious Frog Clan attacks, slaying the noble King Rattus and destroying the Crimson Keep.
Left to die and with a kingdom in ruins, Redgi must count on his iron will to not just restore his kingdom, but to vanquish the evil frogspawn for good. It’s a noble task indeed, but one that is not going to be easy so like any good RPG, players will find plenty of questing to do and enemies to eliminate.
Taking a leaf out of the Souls-like genre, combat in Tails of Iron is visceral and intense. There are no notions of levelling up and getting stronger, as it all depends on your skill and the equipment you have on. Learning enemy attack patterns and deciding when to strike, dodge, block, or parry will determine how long you can survive.
As the would-be king, Redgi is well-versed with swords, axes, spears, ranged weapons, and shields. Add in two-handed variants and you have a number of ways to cut down the enemies in your path. How players want to fight is entirely up to them, whether you prefer to be quick and nimble, or hit hard and take things slow.
Ranged attacks can be blocked, parrying certain moves open up windows of opportunities to get your riposte in, while executions are ruthless to witness. Redgi is also able to enhance his weapons with poison, allowing for more damage to be dealt to enemies. And in a pinch, you can heal up with the handy but limited flask of bug juice.
There is no one correct way of fighting, and the bestiary of foes you will encounter will have players strategising for the best setup for success. Outside of the Frog faction, there are bug-like grubs to deal with, swift fliers like the Mozis, and even Moles to contend with. From ranged enemies to hard-hitting melee fighters, Redgi will always have his paws full in any combat scenario.
Then there are the bosses, oftentimes hulking monstrosities that are terrifying to look at and even more fearsome to fight. With unique attacks and behaviours, they are the biggest tests of Redgi’s road to salvation, and it is vital to have patience and get your timing down right if you want to come out alive.
Wrong moves are meant to be punished, and you could be on the end of an unpleasant chain of attacks if you are not careful. Thankfully, checkpoints are quite regular in Tails of Iron, so you can always jump back in with even more knowledge to keep you alive.
Needless to say, the combat in Tails of Iron is utterly satisfying. Every attack is calculated, every dodge a near-miss, and nothing comes close to satisfaction like surviving a daunting encounter with a sliver of health left.
Although Redgi’s main aim is always going to be driving players forward, there are quite a number of side quests to partake in for this rodent RPG. While it does not go beyond fetching items or wiping the floor with bounty targets, it gives players the excuse to enjoy the combat even more while experiencing more of this unique world.
And what a fantasy medieval world it is, brought to life with all manners of critters. The environments Redgi will visit throughout Tails of Iron are all full of nice touches that reveal a living, breathing world that offers a glimpse into the unknown. Rat villages that are full of activity, an underground town filled with industrious residents, and a healthy dose of secrets waiting to be discovered.
The way the people of this world behave, how things are, and the conflict that binds them all somehow work quite flawlessly together. The animations stand out particularly, whether Redgi is swinging a heavy hammer, climbing up platforms, or just resting at a bench to save the game. It won’t be long until you see drinking bug juice as a habit you have had all your life.
Tails of Iron also takes a unique perspective on storytelling, trading written dialogue for imagery, with the entire story narrated in bits and pieces by the soothing tones of Doug Cockle, otherwise known as Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher series. It makes one stand up and pay attention, rather than rely on constant exposition.
The solid worldbuilding and narrative make for a great foundation to build an RPG on, and Tails of Iron gets it right most of the time.
Catering to players of all kinds with flexible equipment, throwing mechanics like armour resistances and weight into the mix, companions that join you on your journey at times, and the questing for the common folk, it all fits nicely into the genre. Redgi can also engage in crafting using blueprints to obtain new armour and weapons, or even get permanent health boosts from eating tasty meals.
Yet, Tails of Iron can almost feel like an RPG-lite that will have players begging for more. Lasting for about 10-12 hours, the entire experience is perhaps too linear for its own good.
On one hand, it does tell a focused story that will keep you motivated to see things through, but on the other, it never deviates enough to provide bursts of freshness that would be pleasant surprises. If anything, wanting more of Tails of Iron is a good thing, and a missed opportunity like this could provide the developers more impetus to go bigger the next time around.
At its core, Tails of Iron is a wonderful experiment that translates the traditional RPG experience into an untapped setting that we never knew we needed. The harrowing journey of Redgi will see players rooting for him, thirsty for revenge, and wondering at the end, if it was all worth it.
Enjoyable combat, excellent and focused storytelling, and a feast for the eyes make Tails of Iron a game worthy of the attention of everyone who likes RPGs and the challenge of Souls-like games. Now, if only we can get even more straightaway, then life would indeed be perfect.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Tails of Iron may be an indie title, but this Souls-like RPG sure hits like an AAA experience in every sense.
Gameplay - 8.5/10
Story - 9/10
Presentation - 9/10
Value - 9/10